HOBOKEN -- Councilman Tim Occhipinti, a member of the City Council minority faction typically opposed to the administration of Mayor Dawn Zimmer, said that he feels Councilman Ravi Bhalla and Zimmer have a "blatant conflict of interest" because of a recent personal lawsuit in which Bhalla apparently represented Zimmer and her husband.
According to documents sent to the Reporter, Zimmer and her husband were named as defendants in a complaint on behalf of plaintiff Branch Services, Inc. The suit, which was settled June 29, sought the collection of debt for services for that the plaintiff had allegedly performed, including attempts at remediation for water and leakage damages.
A counterclaim had also been filed, according to the documents, seeking compensatory damages from Branch Services, Inc. for allegedly causing damage during the remediation.
According to documentation and civil court records, then-Council President Ravi Bhalla represented Zimmer and her husband in the matter. It was unclear whether or how he was compensated.
Bhalla, who is no longer Council President but still serves on the City Council, is typically allied with the administration.
The documents include a letter apparently from Zimmer's husband explaining the matter to Bhalla, and saying, "Feel free to charge if real work is involved."
"It's just another indication of this administration operating behind closed doors," said Occhipinti. "Under the [time] that he [represented them], he was voting on resolutions submitted by the administration."
Voice messages for comment were left for both Bhalla and Zimmer, and have not yet been returned. They will be posted here once responses are received. --Stephen LaMarca